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They made the U.S. Olympic team, but did not compete

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The U.S. sent 230 athletes to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, but the record book lists 222 competitors.

Eight members of that U.S. Olympic team — the largest by any nation in Winter Games history — did not compete for various reasons.

Some were injured before their event. Others didn’t leave the bench in team sports (one controversially). One more lost an internal competition for a starting spot before the Opening Ceremony.

As the U.S. team of more than 200 athletes for PyeongChang begins to take shape, a look at what happened to those eight from Sochi:

Erik Fisher, Alpine Skiing
Fisher went to both the 2010 and 2014 Olympics but didn’t compete at either Games.

The world’s best Alpine nations often bring more downhill skiers than they have starting spots (four) in the Olympics. Then they use training runs before the medal race to determine who gets the last spot or two behind their top medal favorites.

In 2010, Fisher went to the Olympics with a broken right hand and lost out on the last downhill spot to Steven Nyman.

In 2014, Fisher went to the Olympics with a left knee injury and again lost out to Nyman in training runs.

“I was knocked out in the qualifying run, and the coaches used the last discretion spot for Steven Nyman,” was posted on Fisher’s social media the day of the Sochi Opening Ceremony. “Once again I had to fight thru an injury to try and make the final 4 spots and could not quite do it. I tweaked my knee a few weeks back and had to get a cortisone shot to help fight the pain. Tomorrow I will be getting an MRI to see the damage in left knee. I gave it my all and I’m proud of what I accomplished. It was so amazing to see the support of Family, Friends and the Community. I can’t possibly thank you enough! Nyman is a very good friend of mine and I hope he kills it!”

Fisher last raced in April 2014. The U.S. Alpine team for PyeongChang will be named next month, possibly with skiers who will have to earn starts in training runs.

Allison Pottinger, Curling
After four-person teams win the U.S. Olympic Curling Trials, they typically have a week or two for adding a fifth member as an alternate.

Pottinger qualified for the 2010 Olympics outright and played for Debbie McCormick‘s team in Vancouver. Four years later, Pottinger skipped her own team, made it to the Olympic Trials finals and lost to Erika Brown‘s team. Twelve hours after that, Brown asked Pottinger to be her alternate.

Over the last three Olympics, three of the six alternates for U.S. curling teams ended up playing. Alternates can replace any member of the team before any game and be subbed back out for later games. They can also enter mid-game as injury replacements.

Their duties are scouting other teams and “matching rocks,” throwing competition stones after the completion of play in preparation for the next day’s games to gauge their variance.

During games, alternates typically sit with coaches on a bench about 20 feet from the ice sheet.

While men’s alternate Craig Brown (Erika’s younger brother) did see game action in Sochi, Pottinger did not as Brown’s team went 1-8 and finished last out of 10 teams.

“I thought about it going in, and I kind of set myself with the mindset that I wasn’t going to play,” Pottinger said. “You don’t get your hopes up. I know that sounds bad. I know those girls [on Brown’s team] well enough that they want to play every game. They won to get there [to the Olympics] as a team.”

At least Pottinger had her Olympic competition experience in 2010. She regretted that the alternate on her Vancouver Olympic team — Tracy Sachtjen — didn’t get into a game (that team also finished in last place).

“It wasn’t until literally two ends into the last game where I kind of thought to myself, wait a second [about Sachtjen],” said Pottinger, a 44-year-old who didn’t compete at this year’s trials. “Tracy was our alternate the whole season. We went in [to the Olympic season] as five. So I think that was probably even harder [than 2014].”

The alternates on the U.S. curling teams for PyeongChang are Joe Polo and Cory Christensen.

Jimmy Howard and Brianne McLaughlin, Hockey
Olympic ice hockey rosters expanded to three goalies for the men in 1998 and the women in 2010. Going into Sochi, Howard and McLaughlin looked like the Nos. 3 on the depth chart.

And with only three group games followed by the playoffs, the likelihood is always high that at least one goalie per team will not play in the Olympics.

McLaughlin was the U.S. No. 3 in both 2010 and 2014.

Months before the 2010 Olympics, U.S. coach Mark Johnson chatted one-on-one with McLaughlin, who was the only one of his three goalies who had no previous world championship experience.

“I was told right off the bat, congrats on making the team, but this is not Brianne McLaughlin’s time,” McLaughlin said. “That was my rookie season. I had never been on the national team before. For me it was, just, this is awesome.”

Johnson allowed McLaughlin to dress for a group-play game against lowly China as the backup to Molly Schaus, who was getting a start in place of No. 1 Jessie Vetter.

As McLaughlin walked out of the locker room, she realized she forgot something. Her contacts.

“I was like, oh, whatever, I’m not going to play anyway,” she said. “Ten minutes left in the game [with the U.S. up 10-0] he kicks my butt to get in there.”

The box score lists McLaughlin giving up one goal on two shots.

“I got made fun of for getting scored on for four years,” she said.

McLaughlin hoped to contribute more in Sochi, but she suffered a groin injury about two months before the Olympics that kept her out for weeks. Vetter and Schaus were again the top two goalies, and this time McLaughlin didn’t play.

She spent the epic Sochi women’s overtime final with Canada from a center-ice seat in the stands. She joined the team in the locker room between periods and even ran down late in the third to dress for the medal ceremony.

“I was standing next to the bench with the other [backup] goalie thinking I was going to run out there to get a gold medal,” she said.

Then Canada scored twice in the final 3 minutes, 26 seconds, to tie it and won in overtime. McLaughlin received a second straight silver medal and retired from the national team a year later.

The U.S. men’s and women’s hockey teams — with three goalies each — will be named Jan. 1.

Heidi Kloser, Moguls
The most publicized of the eight U.S. Olympic team members who did not compete in Sochi.

Kloser tore her right ACL and fractured her femur in training before qualifying on the eve of Opening Ceremony. The news really spread after her father’s Facebook post:

We just got down from the Olympic Village ER where Heidi was taken to after a bad fall in her training run prior to tonight’s Olympic qualifier … Heidi’s doing ok, but there’s moments when the reality of it all hits home, she’s a tough one, but this is a tough one to swallow for all of us! When she was in the ambulance, she asked Emily and me if she was still an Olympian…. We said of course she is!

Teammate Hannah Kearney, the 2010 Olympic moguls champion, said that she was also asked by Kloser whether she was an Olympian.

“I actually made the huge mistake of trying to joke with her too soon after it happened. I didn’t realize how serious she was about that (question),” Kearney said of their conversation hours after Kloser’s injury. “I’m like, well, Heidi, I don’t know. You haven’t competed at the Olympics. And she immediately broke down in tears. I was like, OK, that is not the right thing to say to someone who just had their dreams dashed. I only said that because, my God, of course she earned her spot there.”

The next day, Kloser marched in the Parade of Nations — on crutches after being pushed into Fisht Stadium in a wheelchair.

She needed another knee surgery a year later and has mostly competed on the lower-level Nor-Am Cup circuit since. Kloser is not expected to make the PyeongChang Olympic team.

“If I hadn’t been told that I was an Olympian, I would have put my ski boots on, no matter how bad it hurt, and I would have gone through that start gate,” Kloser said in 2014.

Kyle Carr, Short Track Speed Skating
Carr made the Sochi Olympic team not in any individual races, but only as part of the five-man pool for the 5000m relay.

The relay includes four skaters per country. There is a qualifying round and a final, and skaters can be subbed out between. But they don’t have to be, so Carr flew to Russia without a guarantee of competing. Unlike his four U.S. teammates, who each made it in at least one individual event.

Carr was not chosen for the preliminary round but was told he would be inserted for the final, her mother reportedly said in an NBC affiliate interview.

That didn’t happen. A U.S. coach (or coaches) kept the same foursome for the final.

The U.S. won silver in the relay. The gold and bronze nations didn’t use subs, either, but both the U.S. men’s and women’s medal-winning relays used everyone in 2010.

“I walked out and just sobbed, and thought, ‘I hope that coach feels really good about himself. Really good about himself,’” Carr’s mom reportedly told the NBC affiliate at the relay final. “Because that was how many years of a dream that he just ripped out from Kyle’s feet — after telling him for the last how many days that he was skating the final?”

Carr reportedly retired after competing in the relay at the world championships one month later.

This year, another U.S. man made the Olympic team as a relay-only skater, Ryan Pivirotto.

Maggie Voisin, Ski Slopestyle
Voisin was due to become the youngest U.S. athlete to compete at a Winter Olympics since 1972, two months after turning 15.

But she fractured her right fibula in practice on the day of the Opening Ceremony.

The injury didn’t feel serious at first, but reality set after she got an X-Ray for the first time in her life and saw a crack. Voisin had not been told the diagnosis, but she crutched out of the room, sat next to her physical therapist and cried.

Voisin emailed her parents, but as Team USA marched into the Opening Ceremony that night, she didn’t know if they had gotten word. So she thew away her crutches and footed it.

“I wasn’t ready for them to see that,” Voisin said. “I felt like I was letting not just myself down, but my family, which had traveled that entire way to go there.”

Voisin, with a new set of crutches, stuck around for the ski slopestyle event four days later.

She watched from the bottom, her Sochi 2014 bib tied around her waist, as the women who finished directly behind her at the X Games three weeks earlier made up the medal podium. Voisin later framed the bib.

A fire was lit. She wanted to prove — not just at the next Olympics, but the following season — that she was an Olympian.

Her first contest back was in December 2014. Voisin tore her left ACL and meniscus. Another 13 months out of competition. She returned to Montana, continued home school and attended a prom.

Voisin returned for the 2015-16 season. Fourth at X Games. Second at a World Cup at the PyeongChang Olympic venue.

She was the top American in the first two Olympic qualifiers this year, including a victory. And with X Games champ Kelly Sildaru out for the season with a left knee injury, the gold medal is up for grabs.

“I’m going into PyeongChang with that much more motivation,” Voisin said. “I remember sitting in that hospital [in Russia], thinking, I’m going to do whatever it takes to get back to the Olympics.”

Arielle Gold, Snowboard Halfpipe
Gold dislocated her right shoulder in a practice crash the day of qualifying in Sochi. It was popped back in, but she was unable to compete, saying it was the worst pain she ever felt, according to the Denver Post.

The slushy halfpipe conditions were a topic throughout the Games. Gold believed that played a part in her fall, which came hitting a bump near the pipe’s flat bottom.

“The weather was so warm that the snow wasn’t holding up well,” she said earlier this season. “It got dangerous. You couldn’t see where any bumps were. That’s exactly what happened to me.”

Gold posted video of the crash from the non-televised practice a few days later.

“I actually wanted to watch it,” she said. “I was just getting a lot of messages on social media from friends and family back home about what happened. … I figured that it gave people a little context.”

Gold, the 2013 World champion, made it back to the bottom of the course to watch the final, where two of her American teammates won medals.

“That was the hardest part … feeling like I could be right up there in the mix,” she said. “It wasn’t as much about the medal or the result, but being able to compete.”

Gold tries not to think about Sochi too much, not automatically connect it to her potential PyeongChang story, but she cherishes memories.

Watching the U.S.-Russia men’s hockey game that went to a shootout. Being at the Olympics with brother Taylor, who was eliminated in the men’s halfpipe semifinals. She saved her team gear and an Olympic ring that all U.S. Olympians receive.

Gold is in decent position to make the PyeongChang Olympic team through two of four qualifiers, but she may have to hold off reigning X Games champion Elena Hight and 2006 Olympic champion Hannah Teter.

“Sometimes when I look back on Sochi, a lot of it was, I was a little bit starstruck and didn’t realize I was there. It didn’t seem real,” said Gold, who was 17 years old then. “I hope this time around, if I qualify, I can make the most of the experience.”

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MORE: List of athletes qualified for U.S. Olympic team

Diamond League slate ends in Doha with record holders; TV, stream info

Mondo Duplantis
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The Diamond League season ends on Friday in the place where it was supposed to start — Doha.

Like many sports, track and field’s calendar was put in disarray by the coronavirus pandemic. The Doha meet, originally scheduled for April 17 to open an Olympic season, was postponed five months while other stops were canceled altogether.

Now, Doha caps an unlikely season that still produced stirring performances. NBCSN coverage starts at 12 p.m. ET. NBC Sports Gold also streams live for subscribers.

The headliner is Swedish pole vaulter Mondo Duplantis, a leading contender for Male Athlete of the Year. Duplantis, who twice bettered the world record in February at indoor meets, last week produced the highest outdoor clearance in history, too, breaking a 26-year-old Sergey Bubka record.

Duplantis can mimic Bubka on Friday by attempting to raise his world record another centimeter — to 6.19 meters, or more than 20 feet, 3 inches.

The deepest track event in Doha is the finale, the women’s 3000m, featuring 3000m steeplechase world-record holder Beatrice Chepkoech, 5000m world champion Hellen Obiri and rising 1500m runner Gudaf Tsegay.

Here are the Doha entry lists. Here’s the schedule of events (all times Eastern):

11:18 a.m. ET — Men’s Pole Vault
11:33 — Men’s 200m
12:03 p.m. — Men’s 400m
12:08 — Women’s Long Jump
12:12 — Women’s 100m Hurdles
12:21 — Men’s 1500m
12:34 — Men’s 110m Hurdles
12:43 — Women’s 800m
12:56 — Women’s 100m
1:07 — Men’s 800m
1:18 — Women’s 3000m

Here are three events to watch (statistics via Tilastopaja.org):

Men’s Pole Vault — 11:18 a.m.
Duplantis looks to complete a perfect 2020 against his two primary rivals — reigning world champion and American Sam Kendricks (who went undefeated in 2017) and 2012 Olympic champion and former world-record holder Renaud Lavillenie of France. Kendricks was the last man to beat Duplantis, at those 2019 World Championships, and is the only man to clear a height within nine inches of Duplantis’ best this outdoor season.

Women’s 100m — 12:56 p.m.
Olympic champion Elaine Thompson-Herah looks poised to finish the year as the world’s fastest woman after clocking 10.85 seconds in Rome last week, her fastest time outside of Jamaica in more than three years. That’s one hundredth faster than countrywoman Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce‘s best time of 2020. Thompson-Herah was fifth and fourth at the last two world championships after sweeping the Rio Olympic sprints. Like in Rome, her primary challengers in Doha are Ivorian Marie-Josée Ta Lou and 2018 U.S. champion Aleia Hobbs.

Women’s 3000m — 1:18 p.m.
A meeting of titans in a non-Olympic event. Chepkoech is the fastest steeplechaser in history by eight seconds. Obiri is the fastest Kenyan in history in the 3000m and the 5000m. Tsegay, just 23, chopped 3.26 seconds off her 1500m personal best in 2019, taking bronze at the world championships to become the second-fastest Ethiopian in history in that event. In all, the field includes five medalists from the 2019 Worlds across four different events.

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Iris Cummings, last living 1936 U.S. Olympian, has flown ever since Berlin

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Iris Cummings is one of the last living members of a historically significant, global group: athletes who competed at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. She is the only U.S. Olympian from those Games believed to still be alive.

Cummings, a 99-year-old who still swims regularly, was one of 46 U.S. women (along with 313 U.S. men) who competed at the Berlin Olympics, best known for Jesse Owens triumphing in the face of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany.

Since swimmer Adolph Kiefer‘s death in May 2017, the breaststroker Cummings and canoeist John Lysak were the last living 1936 U.S. Olympians. Olympic historians recently learned that Lysak died in January at 105 years old (which Lysak’s family confirmed this week). Canadian Paul Tchir of the OlyMADMen keeps a list of the oldest living Olympians here.

Lysak, born in New Jersey, turned 4 years old when his mom died in 1918 due to the flu pandemic. He was orphaned by his father, overwhelmed with taking care of a farm and four children.

Lysak got a bike to handle a paper route as a boy. That allowed him to sneak down to the Hudson River and row with homemade boats with his younger brother, Steven, who became a 1948 Olympic gold and silver medalist.

“I couldn’t swim, but I floated with a log,” Lysak told NBC Sports for the 2016 film “More than Gold,” about Owens and the 1936 Olympics. “I grew up paddling.”

He specialized at the Yonkers Canoe Club, made the Olympic team and finished seventh in a 10km doubles event with James O’Rourke in Berlin. Lysak later became a Marine and served during World War II.

Lysak spent his last years in California, where Cummings learned to swim off the Pacific beaches as a girl around the time of the Great Depression.

Cummings credited an ability to become an Olympian and one of the first women to fly U.S. military aircraft to her parents, who met while serving in France during World War I. Her father was a medic and sports doctor. Her mother a member of the American Red Cross canteen service.

She said her father, an all-around athlete, gave up a chance to try out for the first modern Olympics in 1896 to attend Tufts University School of Medicine.

“My mother provided the intellectual and academic inspiration from her rare perspective as a woman college graduate and a high school language teacher when very few women ever went to college,” Cummings told NBC Sports in an interview for “More than Gold.”

In 1928, Cummings’ dad took her to her the National Air Races at what is now Los Angeles International Airport.

“I watched Charles Lindbergh at the peak of his fame fly in the air show,” she said.

In 1932, at age 11, Cummings was introduced to the Olympics in person. Her dad was a track and field official at those Los Angeles Games.

Iris Cummings
Iris Cummings (center) competed in the 200m breaststroke at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. (Courtesy Iris Cummings)

All of Cummings’ swimming up to age 13 came in the ocean due to a lack of pools. But from 1934 to ’36, she developed into an Olympian in the breaststroke. In 1936, a 15-year-old Cummings was offered a paid-for, round-trip, cross-country train ticket to swim at a national championships in Long Island, N.Y.

“My mother had to borrow money to buy her railroad ticket to accompany me,” she said.

In a telegraph after nationals, Cummings was told by a California club coach to stay back East for five weeks before Olympic Trials (also on Long Island) because they had no money to send her back and forth again.

“So my mother figured out how we could stay with my grandmother in Philadelphia with almost no place to swim,” Cummings said. They found a country club pool, where she swam after hours while a janitor cleaned.

Cummings placed third in the 200m breast at trials to make the team as its youngest member in an individual event. (Today, only the top two at trials per individual event make the Olympics.)

“They stated, ‘You have made the team, but we don’t have enough money to send all of you,'” Cummings said. “‘The S.S. Manhattan sails in five days. Get out and raise as much money as you can from your hometown.’ My mother and I telegraphed our local newspaper, and a small amount was sent in from Redondo Beach.”

Olympic team members took a 10-day trip on the ship to Germany. Swimmers had one 20-foot-by-20-foot pool in which to train while at sea.

“They pumped the saltwater into it, and it sloshed around as the ship rolled,” Cummings said in an LA84 Foundation interview.

After arriving in Hamburg, U.S. athletes took a boat train that had swastikas on it out of the port.

“Most of us were quite aware of the evolving difficulties or however you want to classify the rise of Nazism in Germany,” said Cummings, adding that U.S. swim coach Charlotte Epstein previously boycotted attending the Olympics. “We’d heard the same rumors [about a U.S. boycott]. We were all wondering if the Olympic committee was going to take action before the boat sailed. That had come up in most everyone’s minds.”

At the Opening Ceremony, Cummings was bored by speeches and instead said she took pictures of the Hindenburg flying above. She had no fear about being there.

“The concerns were from nations that had proximity to the situation like a Belgium, or Holland or Austria,” she said. “We’ve got this passport, I know Margie [Marjorie Gestring, a gold-medal diver at age 13] and I looked at this and said, we’ve got this special passport. They can’t touch us.”

Most of Owens’ events took place before Cummings was eliminated in the first round of the 200m breast. She nonetheless took advantage of passes for athletes to watch track and field at the Olympic Stadium. She saw all of Owens’ races, sitting in an athlete section about 15 or 20 rows above Hitler’s box.

“Whenever [Hitler] came in, we could see him down there,” she said. “He wasn’t very far away.”

Iris Cummings
(Courtesy Iris Cummings)

Eight decades later, Cummings still remembered the crowd cheering for Owens after his victories.

“The whole stadium was rooting for Jesse,” she said.

Soon after the team returned to the U.S., Cummings began attending the University of Southern California. She enrolled in a pilot training program in 1939, earned her license the next year and worked as a flight instructor during the war. Then she became a pilot for the AAF Ferry Command in the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron, later included in the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs).

“None of us thought there were going to be Olympics in ’40,” she predicted, correctly. Not in 1944, either.

She estimated that she’s flown more than 50 types of airplanes.

“There were only 21 of us [women] who ever flew the P-38,” she said, “and there were only four of us who ever flew the P-61 Black Widow.”

After the war, marriage to Howard Critchell and childbirths, Cummings continued to race planes. She developed curricula for the Federal Aviation Administration, founded an aeronautics program at Harvey Mudd College and was inducted into the National Flight Instructors Hall of Fame, among many honors.

“I’ve been flying 76 years, and it’s a privilege to just be around,” she said shortly before she stopped piloting in 2016.

Cummings still flies as a passenger with a former student.

“It’s a treat to be up there with the elements and appreciate it all,” she said. “It’s you and the air movement and the wind and what you can do with your airplane.”

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